Due 1/6/2006

Gravity-Powered Asteroid Tractor µProject

In this project you will discuss the physics involved with a proposal for a "Gravity-Powered Asteroid Tractor". On the back of this sheet is a copy of an article about the asteroid Apophis. If you are curious and have Internet access, searching for "Apophis" and "asteroid" will yield more information. However, additional information is not needed to complete this assignment successfully.

Your discussion will be in the form of an informative essay. This essay will be typed and follow the standard English class essay format. Return this paper to the instructor by stapling it to your discussion. The essay will be graded based upon the Writing Scoring Guide used in your English classes. The technical content will be evaluated for accuracy and completeness.

There are several points you will want to include in your essay:

  1. Give a detailed description of the technique proposed in the article.
  2. Explain the advantages of the gravity towing technique over other options.
  3. Explain the two reasons given for angling the thrusters?
  4. It is expensive to launch heavy spacecraft such as a space tractor. What specifically could you do with the distance between the tractor and asteroid to greatly increase the effectiveness of the tractor (see "For You to Read" on page 111 and "Physics Talk" on page 112).
  5. Movies suggest "blowing up" the asteroid. Why would Newton's First Law of Motion and the inertia of the asteroid fragments make this a bad idea? Remember these asteroids are very large.
  6. Discuss the kinetic energy of an asteroid strike. Apophis would have an impact velocity of 28,000 mph. Why would changes in this speed estimate have large changes in the impact energy? Would it be more important to have accurate estimates of the mass of the asteroid or the velocity?
  7. Draw a clear, clean diagram showing the forces acting upon the tractor and asteroid system. Remember the asteroid is also orbiting the Sun. This diagram may be stapled to the typed paper.